Anthony Randolph shines again; Michael Beasley continues to regress
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Anthony Randolph followed up his career-game with 24 points but it wasn't enough as the Minnesota Timberwolves fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder 111-103 for their sixth consecutive road loss.
Randolph started for a second consecutive game in Kevin Love's absence and added 15 rebounds to his 24 points for his third double-double in a Timberwolves uniform.
The Wolves have been a pesky gnat buzzing around the Thunder's ear this season, playing them close on three separate occasions -- including 118-117 loss in OT last month -- before being swatted away in the fourth quarter by the playoff-bound youngsters from Oklahoma.
But a combination of missing their best player, playing the business-end of a back-to-back and -- probably most important -- a general sense of apathy towards the end of another disastrous season led to a relatively easy 48th win for the Thunder and the 56th loss for the Wolves.
To be fair, the Wolves did put together a run late in the third quarter to cut the lead to a single basket with an odd lineup featuring Randolph, Darko Milicic, Anthony Tolliver, Michael Beasley and Luke Ridnour. But the NBA's leading scorer Kevin Durant put an end to the run with back-to-back 3-pointers to end the frame en route to finishing with 23 points in a performance considered pedestrian to his standards.
Love missed his second consecutive game while hanging back in Minneapolis rehabbing a left going strain that could end the All-Star's season, according to coach Kurt Rambis. Officially, Love is listed as day-to-day and will be reevaluated before Sunday's game against the Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics.
One of the season-long problems plaguing Beasley reared its ugly head early in the first quarter when he picked up two fouls and took a seat on the bench, leaving an already short-handed Wolves team with even fewer scoring options.
Beasley managed to score 20 points but it was a product of taking a team-high 18 attempts, converting just eight of them. He also finished with turnovers.
Beasley's season isn't finishing nearly as strong as it began, when he provided high-scoring, fun-loving leadership and a game-winner against the Clippers that was one of few excuses for Target Center faithful to get on their feet that didn't involve a 10th point scored or 10th rebound collected by Love.
Things began to unravel for Beasley around the first of the year when a reoccurring ankle injury caused him to miss nine games and leave four others early. Beasley, who said he had never really dealt with an injury in his career before then, admitted his confidence took a hit and his shot had fallen out of rhythm.
Since January 1st, Beasley has shot just .408 in 27 games as defenders have caught on to his limited repertoire of moves and shoot-first mentality. Rambis has not shied away from criticism of Beasley, saying the 22-year old has a long ways to go on both ends of the court.
After the loss to the Mavericks Thursday -- where Beasley watched most of the 4th quarter from the bench -- he retweeted a message on his personal Twitter account that appeared to be a passive-aggressive way of showing his dissatisfaction with Rambis, "I sure wish coach would just let (Michael Beasley) play his game!" the message read
At some point during the day Friday, Beasley deactivated his Twitter account without explanation, which may have been for the best. Unlike teammates Kevin Love and Anthony Tolliver, who use their accounts to interact with fans and give away tickets, Beasley's Tweets rarely made sense and he once announced he had just been kicked out of a movie theater -- which a local news outlet picked up on and ran a story about.
When David Kahn plucked the former second-overall pick from the Miami Heat in a sweetheart-deal for two future second round picks, many speculated the change of scenery would be just what Beasley needed. His rookie and sophomore season failed to live up to the hype brought on from being the 2008 Big 12 Player of the Year and a consensus All-American in just one season at Kansas State and were ultimately plagued by alleged marijuana use and depression.
Beasley is by no means a lost-cause and figures to be a key piece of Kahn's puzzle going forward but the questions about his maturity and commitment that caused Miami to essentially give up on him are still valid questions today.
He possesses all the talent and athleticism necessary to be an elite player in the NBA but it remains up to him if he wants to be anything more than a lot of untapped potential.